By John and Wendy Godfrey
No two couples are exactly the same, just like no two people are exactly the same — and yet, there are commonalities across marriages that are hard to deny. Most relationships hit hard patches, for example.
While some couples deal with infidelity or abuse, others deal with ongoing communication problems or repeated arguments about money or sex. Whatever the specific issue, the way it feels to the people in the relationship is often the same: frustrating, discouraging and maybe even hopeless.
The good news for every married person is that there is always hope. Marriages that survive rough patches are often the ones that result in greater intimacy and deeper love than was thought possible.
Working through difficult seasons is actually a powerful and important part of a healthy married life. So what are some of the top marriage problems today? What do couples most typically deal with these days? Here is a look at six of the biggest issues.
1. Poor Communication
Every relationship requires communication to survive, so when married couples struggle to both listen and be heard, it’s no surprise that the relationship suffers. Many people confuse talking — or even yelling — with communicating, but actually it is much more than words that are involved.
Spouses who aren’t communicating need to change their strategy. Set aside time to listen to one another. Cut out all distractions such as TV, cell phones, other people and other tasks. Choose to listen to one another and affirm what the other is saying before needing to get your own thought out.
Like most skills, communication takes practice. Over time, it’s fully possible to get better at sharing with each other and grow in intimacy in the process.
2. Lack of Sexual Intimacy
There are many reasons why couples stop having sex regularly, from exhaustion and stress to pent-up resentment or unresolved conflicts. Sometimes one or both partners have engaged in some kind of emotional or sexual affair that breaks trust and makes intimacy difficult. Sometimes it’s just a matter of scheduling and busy life.
Regardless, when a couple stops having sex, they often stop connecting in other ways, too. That’s why this is an area couples should take seriously and be proactive about, even if that means putting sex on the calendar or removing some of the distractions that are making it difficult.
Likewise, they need to communicate with one another and work through issues that could be affecting their intimacy, even those that take place outside the bedroom.
The betrayal and hurt that come from emotional or sexual infidelity in marriage can be devastating to a couple. Not only is it hard to work through the affair itself, but learning to be intimate again — in every way — can feel impossible.
Most couples will take a lot of time, a lot of work and perhaps even counseling to get to the other side of infidelity. It’s a matter of rebuilding broken trust step by step with patience and care.
4. Financial Conflicts
Money is another hot-button issue in marriages, but, like sex, it often comes back to problems with broken trust. When one or both partners have not been honest about their finances before marriage, debt they’ve taken on during marriage and/or secret savings accounts, it can be devastating to intimacy.
To counteract this problem, couples need to be open with each other about their finances and discuss spending/saving/budget plans without anger or blame. By working together on financial goals and taking a team approach to finances, a couple can turn a difficulty into an asset.
5. Problems with Extended Family
There’s a reason so many jokes about mothers-in-law exist. Family squabbles are real, particularly when it comes to combining families through marriage.
Whether it’s because the husband’s mother tries to compete with his wife or because the wife’s parents won’t respect boundaries and come over all the time, it spells trouble when a couple isn’t in agreement about family matters. That’s why it’s vital for married couples to put their spouse and marriage first, even before other family members.
Likewise, couples need to present a united front to extended family, about everything from holiday plans to money issues, in order to prevent further conflict.
6. Disagreement about Household Responsibilities
In order for a household to function, somebody has to cook, clean, take out the trash, buy groceries, replace light bulbs, etc. But when a couple can’t come to agreement about who does what, they will often have recurring conflict as a result.
Either partner may feel as if he or she does more than the other, and resent it. One person may be exhausted, and blame the other for not helping enough. Regardless of what is causing the conflict, the couple must come to an agreement somehow. Usually this will involve compromise and ongoing communication.
Conflict is a normal part of any healthy marriage, but it’s how a couple responds to that conflict that determines whether or not they will grow together or apart. With a willingness to work hard and address the issues that arise, many find they can reach the other side of relationship issues and find better harmony as a result.
John and Wendy who both have Masters degrees in Clinical Counseling run a crisis marriage counseling practice, Marriage Rescue Associates, that specializes in solution-oriented therapy, helping couples communicate. They offer everything from counseling to marriage retreats, which attributes to their 90% success rate.